Sunday, December 28, 2014

Brian Gilmore's billy bathgate (for Chico)

I have just recently gotten familiar with Brian Gilmore's poetry. Brian's poetry abandons nothing, brings everything with him as he goes. Brian's DC childhood is a big part of where he came from, and, as he moves on with his life, a big part of who he still is. This poem is a new favorite of mine. And it reminds me of Marge Piercy's "Joy Road and Livernois." In that poem, Piercy also brings everyone with her.

It is the first poem in his new book, We Didn't Know Any Gangsters

billy bathgate (for chico)

            all I’ve got is this picture.

it could have been van der zee
gordon parks,
oggi ogburn fresh from
a chancellor Williams

we are capable boys;

up some small mountain
in summertime
from that swamp of a city.

we couldn’t juggle balls
didn’t know any gangsters,

all we had was ice cold michelob
and red juicy melon
holy like water.

we didn’t know about rattlesnakes
that i’ve now been told are
all over that mountain.

all i’ve got is this picture.

i could call up the crew,

though some of them are
gone away now
like wisps of smoke.
others are here,

just floating on skyline
like kite
without string.

we were capable boys,
looking into the future as if we
would live like frederick douglass
or c.l.r. james.

did I mention the michelob?
red juicy melon
holy like water?

and how about those rattlesnakes?
all around us, now that we know
they are there.

all I’ve got is this picture.
unbreakable smiles.
lean frames.
polo shirts gripping young boys,
soon to be walking tightropes
without poles.

            it’s there, all of it.

            ice cold michelob
            melon holy like water.


            we couldn’t juggle balls.

didn’t know any gangsters.

            we were capable boys,

            all i’ve got is this picture.